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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let Them Shine

Sorting through her daughter’s school bag, a work colleague discovered her Miss5 had an assignment due the next day.

An assignment for a five year old? Only assignment I had when I was five was to stay out of the house until sundown. It was hard too, because all the best cartoons were on straight after school. 

My workmate's first thought was to write a scathing note to the teacher demanding more time to complete the work. I mean, one night! Then it occurred to my colleague the teacher probably didn’t set a complex assignment, involving cutting out pictures from magazines, doing some drawings and an oral presentation in front of the class, all with only one night to get it done. Presumably they’d had all week to work through this. She decided against the note and focused on the task at hand.

Putting aside the TV remote and ignoring the washing, my workmate sat down with her Miss5 and read the topic.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This'll be good, she thought. Astronaut, policeman, Prime Minister, civil rights lawyer, obscenely rich? 

“A shoe shine man,” came the answer. Even setting aside the gender issue, this still gave her pause for thought.

Now there were many ways a parent could go with this. Given the socio-economic band shoe shine men typically inhabit, some responses might have been to argue the child into changing their mind to something more brag worthy with the other mums and dads –  a wild life photographer, for example. 

Of course, growing up I had a mate who’s son was hell bent on becoming a marine biologist. The kid is 21 now, spends all day playing computer games and the closest he comes to water is his daily shower.  My point is it may not work. Probably won't work. But you just might feel the urge to try anyway.

Personally, the way I’d have dealt with this assignment would be to run with the shoe shine man idea and get the damn thing done as quick as possible so I could turn on My Kitchen Rules before they kicked off another contestant. But my workmate had different ideas.

“That’s a great idea, Sweetie,” said my workmate. “Some very famous people have started out shining shoes.” This was a great idea, I thought. Pre-position the idea that it’s only somewhere to start, not a career. “James Brown started out as a shoe shiner. Do you know what a shoe shine man does?”

“They make shoes shiny.”

“Yes they do. And have you had any experience shining shoes?” she asked her daughter.


“Well let’s get you started.” And so saying she pulled out the nugget, a brush and four pairs of daddy’s boots.

Three shoes in, her Miss5 didn’t want to be a shoe shine man anymore, which means she's going to make for an outstanding oral presentation amongst all her classmates, who are presumably aiming for esteemed careers as dog walkers, ice-cream scooperers and the people who colour in the drawings. 

After much tossing around of ideas, my workmate's little Miss5 has now decided she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, although apparently she hasn't decided on a specialty yet. As my work colleague explained to us over coffee, "I mean, she's only five."

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About Me

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Bruce Devereaux is one of the nicest people he knows. When not at work he enjoys reading, writing, hiding from his children and not changing nappies.


His career, and if we used the term any more loosely an e might fall out, has included a gardener, a personal lender, a console operator, a stop/go man (not as big a bludge as you might think but great if you’re into sunburn, abuse and varicose veins), a cleaner of banks and pubs and, for a very brief period, a door to door salesman (until the last door he knocked on was answered by a very scary woman with tremendously hairy legs).


Bruce Devereaux currently works as a forty-five-year-old award winning customer service officer (glass statuette available upon request) for the Bank of Queensland and as a very casual employee for Corrective Services. He likes to believe he excels at both but then he has always been prone to exaggeration.


His favourite colour is green, with a picture of Dame Nellie Melba on one side and General Sir John Monash on the other. His favourite flower is self-raising.

 If you see him around town, call his wife immediately - he's probably snuck out and left her alone with all the kids.


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